Contemplation: Vintage Style Absurdity (or some-such)

Greeting fair readers (the decidedly finite number of you that exist).  It occurs to me that is has been some time since I last wrote a contemplation and as such I feel obliged to entertain you and perhaps encourage the sparking a contemplation of your own with this piece today. 

My topic of interest, which I hope to articulate to the best of my ability, is sparked in regards to an encounter with New York Times writer Penelope Green‘s article “The New Antiquarians” as appeared on Wednesday July 29th of the year 2009.  The article focus primarily on a number of young New Yorkers and their unique styling and decorating preference which focus on oddities and antiques from the Edwardian and Victorian eras as well as even further back.  An obviously vintage pursuit in character and style, which you can behold via a conveniently provided slideshow which accompanies the article.

In and of itself the article and the people within it are a fascinating little examination of life and our ways of establishing a character and personality.  But that isnt’ really my full interest (though they all sound like very interesting wonderful people and the article was very good).   You see I am interested more in the this vintage interest.  It isn’t really anything new mind you, people have been collecting antiques for a long time, and the nostalgia for past times, whether they occurred only a few years prior or well beyond the edge of ones own life, is something that I suspect is a rather inherent feeling of most people.  But I find myself viewing all of it, especially that late 19th century to early 20thcentury with a great degree of fascination and respect.

I would like to propose a new style of cultural movement which combines the feel and look of the New Antiquarians along with the similar, yet slightly odder and more science fictiony, Steampunks, but further establishes a new reality in the age of plastic and computers with a general ironic awareness of the absurdity of it all.  I’d call this movement Neo-Vintagism and the followers Neo-Vintagists.

Of course any sub or counter cultural movement requires an organic drive, meaning that definition is determined by the consensusof attitude, style, ideology, etc. without anything officially being marked down as “this makes you such while this defines you as not.” Realistically that happens on it’s own over times as the world strives to classify the movement and style and so we get goth and punk and emo and hipster and so on and fucking so forth.

I like, and have long liked, the antiquated look and feel.  I think it has something to do with my grandmother’s vast collection of random things, which defy any real categorization from any particular era, but seem instead to demonstrate a survey of a wide track of human history.  Growing up I loved exploring my grandparent’s house and seeing what oddities of bygone days I could find and contemplate; whether they be retro clothing from my father’s youth, old non-functioning cameras, antiquated books, ancient pieces of furniture, and so on etc, etc. 

I myself have occasionally adopted the look by draping myself in perhaps a style best described as retro or vintage.  I do enjoy the collecting of odds and ends, old books, images form past days etc. with the intention of someday using them as a central decorating aspect in my living abode (whereve that may someday be).  What I would strive for ideally though, is that general ironic sense of absurdity.  Ironic in that one might be utilizing the styling and characteristic with the idea of creating a degree of a sense of identity but at the same time accepts the fact that it is all a bit ridiculous and without any specific point.  The inability of most social identities, subcultures, counter-cultures, ideologies, and so on to promote an awareness of the absurdity within their own classification can just make them seem drawn out, annoying, and ultimately stereotyped into a kind of irrelevance that possesses no actual uniqueness.

So perhaps my plug is more for the movment of Undefineable Absurdism, in which classification becomes null because adherance to any style or characteristic is done more as whim of fancy than any actual desire to adhere to a greater movement in itself.  That of course would be the irony.  One could not claim to adhere to the ideals of Undefinable Absurdism without inevitably breaking from the ideal in the first place.

In high school a few friends and I would refer to ourselves as Post-modern-neo-transcendentalists.  When asked what that meant we’d generally shrug and say “we don’t fucking know either.” (Though in hindsight post-modern-neo-transendentalism seems relativley clear . . . right?)  That is how I like to approach life.  It isn’t necessarily a pursuit of rebellion or anti-estamblishment but it isn’t not that either.  It is the ideal or lack there of, at it’s core, that if everything is equally absurd, then nothing can really be deemed more or less worthy of interest and utilization.  Thus allowing for a vast post-ness of just about all categorization.  Nerd, jock, prep, goth, punk, hippie, red-neck, indie, et al. are just different expressions of the overall absurd expressions of human life.  Why restrict yourself to any specific classification when you could allow a fluidity of identity through any and all of them and thus establish your own identity as an unclassifiable? 

Some tend to see an absurdist approach to life as being overly relativistic and actually approaching something like nihilism.  While I agree that philosophical absurdism has the potential risk of creating a nihilistic feel to existence and reality in that it more-or-less asserts that nothing has any degree of know-ability to humanity, including humanity itself, I will say that I prefer to take a more optimistic view of absurdity.  If I accept that everything worthy of contemplation is equally absurd then there is nothing which is without worthiness of fascination or interest without risking the over seriousness in pursuing that fascination.  Does this mean I can relinquish any moral or ethical restraints?  I’d say not, because I am still forced to function in a society that requires such restraints to promote stability and continuity, but I can choose to scrutinize such restraints for their worth and detractors while adhering to them.  I see absurdism as offering great opportunity to relate to almost anybody as well as to find fascination in almost anything (again, as long as existing within the consensually created ethical restrainsof culture and society).  Yes, it is kind of a hypocritical approach but it is the reality we live in.  All and all I’d say it relinquishes an overbearing sense of stress and necessity to feel that one has to take everything as so serious. (Just avoid the extreme end of it where the inability to take anything at all serisous at any given time could drive you over the far edge and make you an immoral psychopath kind of like The Joker — just sayin’ . . . keep it real, jut not too real).

Damn, I’ve drifted far from the start of this piece.  I suppose that is kind of the nature of these contemplation posts.  As a final note, I think that the names of the two women in the beginning of The New York Times’ article are wodrously fascinating, they being Hollister and Porter Hovey.  How could they be any more appropriate for the interests which they choose to pursue?  Hollister maintains a blog by the way, which you might want to check out.  Also, while on the topic of names, in regards to the article’s author, Ms. Green, Penelope has to be one of my favorite female names ever, though I am not certain that I have ever personally known anyone named Penelope.  Oh, and just for last kicks, with the whole Neo-Vintagist thing, my full name is Nathaniel Holden Lord, which I’ve always thought had a decidedly old sound to it.

That's me rockin' the style a bit.  The matching hat and scarf were my grandfather's.

That's me rockin' the style a bit. The matching hat and scarf were my grandfather's.

image via Orangecoat’s Christmas card.

~ by Nathaniel on July 30, 2009.

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